The Watcher - Ross Armstrong - a stylish contemporary Noir thriller
When I received my advance copy of this new thriller to read it held double appeal for me. I can't get enough of twisty psychological thrillers and I am a keen birdwatcher (who also enjoys a bit of people watching)
This fabulous book is a tense and terrifying journey into the world of Lily Gullick a young woman who sees something strange and worrying whilst bird watching from the window of her brand new apartment in a contemporary tower block which she and her husband Aidan bought some time ago.
From childhood Lily has been a keen birdwatcher, taught by her Dad to record and identify the different species she spots and living up here with a balcony overlooking a reservoir it’s the ideal pastime to while away her time with her binoculars. However she also has a great view of the other apartments including the remaining semi derelict old blocks of flats opposite, earmarked for imminent demolition by the new developers they are the grim and hulking crumbling relics of the 1970s with few remaining residents, save a few hardened dwellers hanging on until the bitter end in their graffiti ridden, urine scented fortress.
Lily’s story is strange and compelling, it’s clear she has a vivid imagination and her life has a dream-like and almost post-apocalyptic feel, although it’s set very much in the now of modern day city dwellers and the deep social divide between the Young upwardly mobile city workers and those who are not so much have nots as have never hads.
Lily wants to narrow this gap. She is a people watcher of extremes and has created names and even woven lives around many of the people she knows only by sight. It becomes clear that despite her accurate record keeping and obvious intelligence, she is perhaps not the most reliable of narrators. As she begins her quest to meet and talk to her neighbours she displays an erratic side to her personality, heedless of her own safety she makes ill-judged decisions and when she sees something which really worries her, followed by a sudden death she is convinced is murder, she rushes headlong into a self-destructive investigation which is bound to end badly.
Whilst we watch her, watching others, a pattern of unreliability and instability emerge, it’s clear something is wrong in Lily’s life. Her job is unsatisfying and she is only going through the motions her husband appears to be becoming a recluse, a shut -in, and even though Lily loves him it grows harder for her to connect with him.
It’s the sense of isolation and unease as Lily’s life spirals out of control, which permeate the fabric of this psychological suspense novel, creating a really different form of tension and nail biting suspense.
There is a big OMFG moment which rocked me sideways and glimpses of Lily’s past and present coming together to create the person she has become, and underneath it all is the baffling was it … wasn’t it? murder investigation, missing girl, and strange goings on which make Lily’s life very surreal with a nightmarish quality lightened with brief moments of levity, which made this book sheer reading pleasure.
The setting of dark and crumbling monoliths of vandalised tower blocks juxtaposed against modern “Yuppie” waterside apartments, all overlooking a tranquil reservoir peopled by birds creates a stark and isolated world for Lily to inhabit and the perfect backdrop for sinister goings on.
This book is a cunning and accomplished debut. I loved reading this stylish, contemporary Noir thriller with a twist.
I received my copy in advance to read before publication and I apologize for allowing life to get in the way and not getting around to it until after it has been published. The advantage of this is you can rush out and grab your own copy right now.
The Girl on the Train meets Rear Window, The Watcher is an absolutely addictive and on trend commercial psychological suspense read, with a captivating unreliable narrator and some powerful narrative twists. She's watching you, but who's watching her? Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can't help spying on her neighbours. Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat. But can Lily really trust everything she sees?